Planning the Future: Firm builds on teamwork, keeps eye on succession

Peloton Land Solutions

At a glance

Peloton Land Solutions

Year founded: 2010

Co-founders and managing partners: Aric Head, president/CEO; Richard Payne, chairman/COO; and Patrick Smith, CFO

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Headquarters: 5751 Kroger Drive, Suite 185, Keller 76244; 817-562-3350;

Specialties: Civil engineering, hydrologic/hydraulic design, surveying, planning, environmental science, energy services, wildlife hazard assessments, qualified airport wildlife biologists, certified wildlife biologists, landscape architecture

Company size: 100 employees

Number of shareholders: 7

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Locations: Keller-Fort Worth, Frisco, Austin

From the start of business, Peloton Land Solutions has been a fast-growing company.

Strategic growth is just what founding partners Aric Head, Richard Payne and Patrick Smith had in mind when they established the Fort Worth engineering firm in January 2010. The co-founders are bullish on tapping available growth opportunities, to fuel both the company’s long-term competitive position in the industry and the professional growth of its employees.

The company’s approach is paying off. In its second year of business, it saw profitability jump 20 percent over the previous year. Overall revenue growth from 2012 to 2015 was 112 percent. Peloton projects 10 percent revenue growth and 15 percent employee growth for 2016.

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Thanks to such robust growth, the company continues to expand its presence – it opened locations in 2012 in the key markets of Frisco and Austin – and its workforce, which now numbers 100 professional engineers, planners, surveyors, scientists, landscape architects and support personnel. Every project is a team effort, say company leaders. The name Peloton derives from the word platoon, a small detachment or team of soldiers that combines all of their individual skills into one unit. Peloton uses that same strategy to achieve clients’ goals.

Peloton Land Solutions provides civil engineering design and land development services to municipal, residential, commercial, industrial and energy sector clients. The firm’s expertise includes planning, civil engineering, hydrologic and hydraulic design and modeling, surveying, landscape architecture and environmental science.

Some of the heavy hitters among Peloton’s Tarrant County projects include the new $1.2 billion Facebook Data Center in Hillwood Development Co.’s AllianceTexas development; The Shops at Clearfork, a joint venture between Cassco Development Co. and Simon; Alliance Town Center North and South; Sendera Ranch; Grapevine Station; Golden Pond residential development in Azle; and Harvest, a master-planned community in the town of Northlake. In Collin County, Peloton provided services on the residential developments of Creeks of Legacy and the Homestead at Ownsby Farms in Celina, Preston Hills in Frisco and the Villages of Hurricane Creek in Anna.

The founding partners attribute the firm’s rapid success to its comprehensive services and multidisciplinary team.

“We’re a very growth-centric company,” said Head. “We discuss it with our employees. The number one reason we want to grow is to provide opportunities to our employees. You first want to develop a young man or young woman into the best engineer they can be. Growth provides the opportunity not just to be a good engineer. It provides the opportunity for them to manage a project. It provides them the opportunity to manage a team. It provides an opportunity for them to lead programs and eventually to lead the company someday.”

In 2014, the co-founders incorporated Peloton Land Solutions and restructured its leadership group. A five-member board of directors was formed, which includes Head, Payne and Smith. In addition to their service on the board, Head, 46, is president and chief executive officer; Payne, 49, is chairman and chief operating officer; and Smith, 45, is secretary and chief financial officer.

“The incorporation was a good move for us,” Head said. “We’re covering more ground than we were. We found ourselves as a partnership making the same leadership decisions. This allows us to divide our duties and allows us to sustain our growth and meet our long-term goals, ultimately allowing us to better meet our clients’ needs.

“Another thing the incorporation did is allow us to provide growth opportunities for folks in the company to fill leadership rolls. We’re transitioning over time for our future leaders,” he said.

In addition to its incorporation in 2014, Peloton implemented a transition plan, and last year elected its first shareholder. Four shareholders were elected in January, bringing the total to seven.

Payne says that organizations should start their leadership transitioning at least 10 years in advance but that many companies find it hard to formulate an exit plan.

“There are not many firms at our stage, six years in the business with young founding partners, that are willing to do what’s in the best interest of the company to start our transition now rather than waiting until we grow old and are ready to retire and look around and wonder who’s going to buy us out. We wanted to make sure we started early enough so that it wouldn’t be a problem for the company and to the employees working for us,” said Payne. “It’s difficult to say we care about our employees but we’re not willing to do what’s in the best interest of the company to take care of those employees. We felt it was important that was a critical path for us to get the transition plan in place and start executing it as soon as possible.”

Head agreed.

“A lot of established companies struggle with that,” he said. “How do you have an exit strategy? What do you do when the senior leaders want to move on and do something different? If there’s no transition plan, the company is going to struggle.

“We’re not just developing quality engineers. We’re developing future leaders of our company. We’ve got to prepare folks to do our jobs someday,” he said.

The transition plan is also a significant recruiting tool, Payne says. Peloton actively recruits young professionals twice a year at job fairs, primarily from Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Austin. The company also has a co-op program with Purdue University.

“The transition plan gives me the ability when I’m meeting with other engineers and recruiting to say we have implemented a transition plan. It’s no guarantee they’re going to be a shareholder but the plan is in place,” Payne said.

Peloton’s employee retention is high, which is noteworthy considering that about 44 percent of the workforce is made up of millennials. Payne says the company is seeing more women entering the engineering profession. In Peloton’s Frisco office, more than 50 percent of the employees are women.

One reason for the high retention rate might be because company leaders promote and encourage continued learning and growth. The company also offers a flexible work schedule, something Payne says millennials look for in their career search.

“One of the quotes I love is from Richard Branson: ‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to,’” Payne said. “It’s a very competitive market. Our mindset is [that] if you treat your employees well enough, they’re not going to want to leave. You take care of them, you train them, you give them opportunities and that’s where the growth component comes in, but you’ve got to treat them right as well.”

Head says the company’s teaching environment, from the leadership on down, is another important factor in high employee retention.

“In the design of our company and creating our company culture, we try to be very mindful of how we do that. One of the things we try to encourage…is having engaged employees. We want them to bring their best to work every day. We think we have the culture, the environment that does that,” Head said.

“We work with some wonderful clients,” he added. “One of the other reasons I think we have good retention is we work with some of the most high-profile, most exciting projects in this market – and some of the best clients in this market, like Hillwood Alliance, Clearfork and Cassco. We’re proud to be part of their team. Our employees look to that and see what an impact our clients have in Fort Worth and Tarrant County and Frisco. It keeps our employees engaged and interested. It’s a true partnership. I think that’s a big part of why we have such high retention in our company.

“We founded Peloton on the principles of teamwork and our success is a direct testament of our talented and dedicated staff,” Head said. “We look forward to where the future will take us as a company.”